Parents, don’t forget to teach the basics for physical and mental health!

Ok, that sounds silly, right?

But some things are so basic we don’t even think about them, and then we can forget to teach our children.

What’s more basic than good health?

Study after study has been done showing how important it is to  eat good healthy food. For general health, for fitness, for immunity, for heart health, and there is a recent study which includes a balanced diet as part of a healthy lifestyle in preventing dementia.

Interested? Here is from an AP article on July 14, 2019:

LOS ANGELES — A healthy lifestyle can cut your risk of developing Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia even if you have genes that raise your risk for these mind-destroying diseases, a large study has found.

People with high genetic risk and poor health habits were about three times more likely to develop dementia versus those with low genetic risk and good habits, researchers reported Sunday. Regardless of how much genetic risk someone had, a good diet, adequate exercise, limiting alcohol and not smoking made dementia less likely.

But do we really teach our children what good healthy eating is? Of course we are the models and it’s more than likely our children will just imitate what we choose. So how good is your diet?

Without going off on a tangent (that’s not really what this post is about), suffice it to say that eating whole foods, with minimal processing, minimal sugar and unhealthy fats is a good start. Load up on the veggies….we all know that but do you share the reasons why with your kids?

And stay away from artificial sweeteners! A number of studies have shown how detrimental these and other “chemicals” are to our health.

Stay moving, stay healthy!

This is more likely to come up in everyday conversation. Especially when you’re already involved in karate, or any other sport. 

I think we all think more in terms of exercise and activity level for kids, or for us when we’re trying to “get in shape”. We need to teach our children that exercise and activity is a life long essential element of a healthy life. 

Not just heart health, but increased immunity, disease prevention, reducing stress, and per above – also wards off dementia! Isn’t it important for our children to be taught this – not just in words but by what we model for them?

Smoking, drinking and drug use

Sometimes we think it’s so obvious that we might forget to instruct our kids. Especially if you aren’t commonly around anyone who smokes, you might forget to talk about why it’s the number one culprit in stealing our health (and our money!) Need more info? Click here

Alcohol has become incredibly controversial with some saying a glass of red wine a day is healthy, while others advise none is the best amount. Being a consumer of red wine, I am prone to believe the first!  I would encourage you to watch a documentary The Truth About Alcohol. It is currently available on Netflix. Fortunately for me, they discovered that there is ONE group that a very small amount of red wine is actually good for — women over 55! 

We live in a world where drugs are prescribed all the time. While drugs can be life saving, we also want to teach our children to be wary. Even life saving drugs become dangerous when used inappropriately or combined with the wrong food or other medication.

Make sure you talk with your children about these important topics: regularly, casually, and not reserved for a one time THE TALK. 

 

 

 

Intensity – Taking it to the next level

We’re ready to take it to the next level!

Everyone knows that karate is good at developing focus and concentration. And those are, indeed, important skills to have. 

Life can be so overwhelmingly distracting, that we can all use an extra ounce of focus to keep us on track.

For the next month we’re going to be increasing intensity. We’ll be working on a relatively simple set of moves, called san dan gi. Three moves: 3 moves on the receiving end, 3 moves on the attacking end. 

This relatively simple set of moves are the perfect opportunity to encourage focus, concentration, and increasing intensity.

So what is intensity?

 Intensity refers to the level of force, power, strength; but in this case, we’re also going to use it to refer to the level of focus, or concentration.

Yes, when we’re working out, when we’re doing power reps, we want to see a high level of power, or giving all you’ve got. Think: “I’m going to go as hard as I can”.

When we’re working on techniques, like san dan gi, we want to see total focus, and attention to every detail.

Karate is all about the details

Every movement, every stance is very precise in Okinawan Goju Ryu. It is in part how character is developed: paying attention to every detail, not being ok with good enough. 

But it goes deeper. The longer you train in karate, the more you learn about the parts of the body and how they can be affected by a strike or block. When you learn the precise moves, you are also learning about anatomy and vital points, and how to get the most out of every movement you make. 

Intensity vs Concentration

When it comes to Intensity, we want to see 100% effort given in class. Each day may bring a different level of what your 100% looks like, but be sure to bring it all.

Going through the motions will not benefit your body or your mind. Be all in.

Concentration is developed in karate quite naturally because it is so difficult. The moves are counter to what comes naturally, so even to walk or stand may take full concentration.

How can you help your children develop concentration?

The truth is, like most things, it’s through actually DOING things that you develop concentration.

We try to use some games and exercises in the karate school that develop focus. Simon Says turns into Sempai Says. Especially when the words don’t match what the senpai is doing (“senpai says touch your knees” is the instruction but the senpai touches his elbows), that helps to increase concentration.

Here’s an article with a number of ways to develop some pretty great skills in children.

Even listening to stories helps kids to develop focus.  We’ll use picture books to help the little ones develop focus and listening skills.

We need to have margins in order to have patience

There is a concept that has crossed my radar frequently over the last few years. That concept is about having margins.

Margins?

When I first heard it, I didn’t have a clue what was meant. Margins. You know: like the blank space along all the edges of the page (or even this post). If we crammed the writing right up against every edge, it would actually make reading pretty difficult. 

Well, when you cram every moment with things to be done, life can get pretty difficult.

We need space

We do need space. And time. For ourselves. For thought. For breathing. 

If we fail to plan for that space, we can find ourselves without it. That’s when we find ourselves running a rat race without even remembering why we’re in the race to begin with.

What’s your win?

Some talk about being in a race. Well, when you’re in a race, you want to win, right? So decide what’s your ‘win’ ahead of time.

If we’re going to run this race, wouldn’t be nice to know what winning would look like? If you don’t know what your win is, how will you know if you’ve succeeded?

For instance: he who has the most toys when he dies wins. Absolutely horrible goal, but it makes a funny t-shirt. And it’s a pretty concrete way to know if you’re “winning”. (Hopefully none of you think this is a good win!)

But take some time. Think about what winning would look like in each area of your life. I’m going to share some wins that Andy and Sandra Stanley set for themselves.

Early in their marriage they came up with what would be a win for them: that they each would always want to be where the other person was. Pretty simple, yet pretty profound. 

Once they had a child they decided the over arching goal for their kids would be: that they would want to be with each other and their parents after they no longer had to. Pretty simple, and yet who can argue that’s not a great win?

Now create margins

Once you know your win, it’s easier to make decisions. Does this get me closer to my goal? 

If something might start to crowd in on what your goals are, then it makes it a little easier to decide what to pare down.

Once you’ve pared down your activities, and have some margin, you’ll find yourself with a lot more patience.

Why patience?

Let’s face it – isn’t the most common reason for running out of patience, is that you feel that you’re running out of time?

When you’ve got extra time built in, then you don’t get overwhelmed, and you have the, what some might say, the luxury of patience. 

But remember to practice patience with yourself! Changes come about with small steps over time. Don’t try to radically alter your life all at once. Choose one area in which you can create a little margin. Baby steps. When you see the difference it makes, you’ll find the motivation to make more changes.

Happy margin making!

Love is patient, love is kind

We’re all at least somewhat familiar with the popular poem from the bible that is often read at weddings.

It’s interesting that the very first descriptive word of love is patience. Hmmmm, must be that it’s a pretty important aspect to love.

What do we need patience for?

I know no one actually has to ask that! 

We all come as a mixed bag of good stuff and not so good stuff. You have to take the not so good stuff along with the good stuff, or else you’ll be very lonely.

Yes, it’s true people can change. But the ONLY person YOU can change is YOU. So you need to get used to that not-so-good stuff in your friend. And maybe have a little compassion for what they have to put up with in you – to help motivate you to work on something you know irritates your friend.

Is patience a muscle?

In January we showed the kids a Class Dojo video which teaches a growth mindset. It’s really important to understand that we all can grow and changed and that who we are is not FIXED. 

In the video they had the brain doing exercises to get stronger in math.

But we can think of everything we want to improve as a “muscle” that can be exercised.

How to exercise patience?

The next time you’re late and stuck in traffic, think “this is a perfect opportunity to exercise my patience muscle.”  Ok, that may be like jumping straight to world champion muscle building.

How about the next time you’re waiting in the grocery line behind someone who’s having trouble searching for all the loose coins in her large tote bag?

Or when your child is all excited about something that he is desperately trying to tell you about, but having a hard time spitting the words out. Breathe, give him time to collect his thoughts (and exercise his own patience muscle) without jumping in and forming the words for him.

Every problem is an opportunity

That’s one of the mottoes that Sam Lariosa, our mentor in Michigan, lives by. Every problem is an opportunity.

In this case, every time you naturally would go to losing patience, is an opportunity to build your patience “muscle”. Take advantage of it, develop it, and it will impact everyone around you.

Kids learn from their primary teacher – YOU. And they learn more from what you DO and how you ACT, than what you say.

So as you’re strengthening your patience muscle, they’ll be watching and learning as well.

One more note

If you want to help your child develop patience, give them opportunities to exercise their patience muscles.

Intentionally providing opportunities to wait for things is an act of love to a child.  We need to learn patience and self-control at an early age. Start small, and they’ll learn.

For a short article on teaching kids patience, click here.

Take advantage of Warrior Week! It’s an opportunity you don’t want to miss

What’s so special about Warrior Week?

Hopefully people enjoy coming out and gathering with greater numbers than they normally do, whether it’s to watch a grading, attend a shiai (tournament), or enjoying all the delicious food there always is at our potlucks!

But Warrior Week can be a unique opportunity to learn some life lessons.

Be prepared

Being invited to grade offers a lesson in planning and preparing: bringing in the required paperwork, completing required written tests and character sheets. As your children get older you can begin to shift the responsibility over to them.

(We apologize for the delay in some grading invitations going out this time.  Thank you weather! We’ll allow extra time to get your paperwork in.)

Shiai (for us, it means friendly tournament!)

The shiai are an important opportunity you don’t want to miss. Watch your son or daughter carefully to see if they are behaving up to your expectations and if any emotions are coming up during the tournament. How do they handle winning? How do they handle losing? Did something seem unfair to them? The drive home will be a wonderful opportunity to address all of these things. Many critical life lessons or skills have only rare opportunities to develop or address. The shiai during Warrior Week might be one such time.

If you are an adult karate-ka — this is an opportunity for YOU, too! Notice what comes up, what feelings arise. Maybe you’ve never been to a shiai and you’re nervous about going. Why? What’s that about? Push yourself! Broaden your experience! Maybe the opposite is true. You can’t wait to go and kick butt! Really? Examine that!

Let’s eat together!

We want to encourage everyone to come to the potluck on Saturday. It’s always a great time to socialize, have the kids “on stage” (developing courage!), as well as learn new things about karate, our specific style, or some other topic we feel is important to share with you.

All students are asked to wear their gi to the potluck (pants and a t-shirt during lunch, adding the gi top and belt after eating), as we will have the classes do demonstrations after we eat.

Looking forward to a great week next week!

 

 

 

Karate makes us strong inside and out

We spent the last month focusing on strength during our mat chats. Karate makes us strong inside and out.

As school got under way we encouraged all of our students to

START STRONG!

We let them know that it is up to THEM to make this school year the BEST YEAR EVER!

And the easiest way to start strong? With a good attitude!

They can make a good impression right from the beginning! (Just SMILING is HUGE!) And it is up to THEM to be READY to learn and to do their BEST.

We told them: The world and everything in it is changing so fast that it’s really important to be a good LEARNER! You will be learning throughout your whole life.

Our dojo kun ends with: “I’m on a quest to be my best!” That means giving 100% at school.

The best way to do that is to get excited about school and make the DECISION to start strong.

When you go in with a positive attitude, the odds are very high that not only will you end up doing well but you’ll also enjoy it!

Everything we do in karate makes us stronger. But what’s most important is developing

strength on the inside.

It also matters what you USE your STRENGTH for.

Just like you don’t want to use your physical, outer strength to break a kitchen chair even if you could — you also don’t want to use your inner strength for the WRONG reasons.

We have a “knower” inside that lets us know when we’re doing something wrong.

It’s usually a whole lot easier to just ignore that voice.

Sometimes that “knower” nudges us and points us to do something that we don’t want to do.

It’s definitely a whole lot easier to just ignore that nudge.

We need to use our inner strength to change course — to stop doing what we know is wrong. Or to DO something that we know we OUGHT to do but just don’t feel like it.

THAT’S what developing inner strength is all about — being able to follow how our inner “knower” directs us, instead of just ignoring it.

Anyone can exercise and develop outer strength – that’s fairly easy to do.

But inner strength is a lot harder and takes focused effort to develop.

We talked about listening to our inner voice to help us do the right thing.

There are several ways to help us

hear that inner voice.

Here are two ways:

One way is to just SLOW down and be QUIET. Our culture can reward staying busy. It can be hard to just stop and listen. It’s not just being quiet (we can be quiet when we are distracted by something around us or focused on a game). But we want to be quiet and LISTEN to what’s going on inside of us. Taking a deep breath can help us stop and do just that.

Sometimes we just need to stop and listen to what someone is telling us. In our busy-ness we can block out other people, like mom or dad, or a teacher, who could really help us.

The second way to help us hear our inner voice, is to know WHO we are.

By that I mean, what kind of person you are – what your values are – what’s important to you.

Who are the most important people in your life? What’s most important to you? Those people and those things, help to define us, help to shape who we are.

Your mom and dad are really important: they are playing a large role in shaping who you are. When you are having a hard time knowing what is the right thing to do in a situation, knowing that can help. You can ask yourself “what would mom or dad think is the right thing to do?”

When we know who we are, and who is shaping us, we can answer the question “what’s the right thing to do?” without asking anyone. We just need to be still, and listen to our inner voice.

 

Another word for

character 

is inner strength.

When you’re physically weak, it might mean you can’t do the things you want to do.

When we talk about character we’re talking about the inside. To be strong in your character means you’ve adopted good positive character traits.

But saying you think honesty and kindness, for example, are good character traits isn’t enough.

You need to be strong to be able to live up to what you know is right.

Our character is judged by what we do when no one is looking. With no fear of getting caught, how do we behave?

That’s where we have to develop strength.

It takes strength to be honest even when no one would ever know if we lied.

It takes strength to be kind even when we don’t feel like it and no one that matters to us is around to see.

Training in karate helps us be strong – inside AND out.

Karate is Continuously Building Courage

I just found this post in drafts!! Ooops….that makes it even later than it was back in mid-September when I wrote this!

9/16/18: I’ve gotten behind on posting our mat chats to the blog. We finished up COURAGE a while ago, but really, it never ends!

For some children just walking in the door takes courage, while others need to be partnered with someone twice their size to feel nervous. 

We have to feel afraid if we are to develop courage. Contrary to some children’s beliefs, courage is not the absense of fear, it is rather the ability to push on and do the right thing regardless of fear.

Warriors of Grace Karate provides a safe environment in which children (and adults) can be introduced to fear.

No, we don’t intentionally cause fear on the karate floor. Fortunately, we don’t have to. We humans are pretty good at coming up with fears and anxieties all on our own. 

Every new experience comes with the potential for feelings of nervousness. When on a self-defense journey, the new experiences come frequently. 

What we don’t do, is allow fear or nerves or anxiety to stop a student from learning and growing. In effect, we make them push through. We help them to develop courage.

Image result for images for courage

How did we talk with the kids about courage?

Here was the first mat chat:

Let’s start with what courage IS — it is doing the right thing

Regardless if you are afraid to do the right thing

Regardless if you don’t feel like doing the right thing

Regardless of whether you WANT to do the right thing.

We might think courage has to do with not being afraid

But it’s not — it’s doing the right thing ANYWAY

Whether you’re afraid or lazy or just plain don’t feel like it!

You might think it takes courage to do something dangerous (something that might be stupid!)

But we don’t care at all about developing the ability to go against everything inside of you that is telling you NO —  that’s not courage, that’s just letting our enemy getting us to do something we know isn’t right.

Doing the RIGHT THING — THAT takes courage! It’s not going to come naturally or easily, it’s something that has to be worked on  – with effort. That’s the kind of courage we’re going to be talking about for the next month.

 

Our Words Are Very Powerful

We have been focusing on RESPECT for the last month. While respect covers many things, we have honed in on the importance of the words we use!

What is respect?

We started the month out by asking the kids  to define respect. You might want to ask them and see if anything “stuck”!

We asked “What does it mean to respect someone?” (We steered them to “it means you think something good about them and that they are important to you.”)

We asked “Should we respect everyone?” (Hopefully that gets a resounding YES!)

And finally we asked “How do we show respect?”

If you have this conversation and your mind goes blank, think: using please and thank you; not doing or saying anything to hurt them; following directions right away; doing what is asked with a  good attitude :-)! These are all ways we show respect.

What’s the most important way we respect the karate school?

Ok, trick question. I bet you answered “by taking care of it!” And you’d be right. Which goes to show it can be tricky to ask a question with an answer in mind!

What’s the first thing we do when we enter the dojo?

Now you have it! Yes, we bow in. For Okinawans, that is how they show respect. 

So we talked with the kids about how habits can help us keep a positive mindset – in this case, every time we bow in, we remember how important our school and everyone in it is. We are reminded to be ready to learn and try our best.

We also started them on the habit of thanking their parents (or whoever brought them) for taking them to karate class. We didn’t focus it on enough to create a habit — maybe you can remind them!

How do we respect our bodies?

One week we focused on taking care of ourselves AND others by keeping our bodies clean! Yup, this time of year we always seem to need a reminder that our hot stinky bodies need to be washed regularly!

Our words are very powerful!

We ended up in the same place we started: in order to show respect to people, we need to make sure we don’t harm them with anything we do or SAY.

It’s important for us to recognize how powerful our words are. They can lift and encourage, or tear down and destroy. We’ve all been on the receiving end of words that have stayed with us a very long time. 

Words are funny in that they can’t be taken back. Even after apologizing, you can’t unhear the words. 

They are also funny in that words have different impacts on us. Negative words are very heavy, sticky and take many more positive words to begin to undo damage.

That’s why we need to be so careful about what we say.

QUICK to listen, ssllooww to speak!

Have you ever been “listening” to someone while you’re thinking about what you’re going to tell them? You’re so focused on what you’re going to say next that you really don’t hear a word the other person is saying?

That’s how we get into trouble and say things we wish we hadn’t! 

That’s not respecting ourselves and it’s not respecting others. We are missing out on what the other is saying — it could be really important! — and we’re not giving the other person the benefit of listening to what they have to say,

But when we really LISTEN to others, and really try to understand what they’re telling us, not just waiting for a pause so we can say what we’re thinking about while they’re talking — then we’re REALLY respecting ourselves and others.

Try this week so be QUICK to LISTEN and sssllllooowww to speak. See if there isn’t a change in your interactions with others.

Especially for Little Ninjas and Golden Dragons:

It’s really hard to talk about respect with the little ones. It’s easier to require them to ACT respectfully, and they understand that their are rules and they’re learning to follow them.

Respect is easier “caught” than “taught” so that’s why we have all the structure and codes of behavior for karate class. 

We did share the story of The Mouse and the Lion.  When the mouse showed the great lion a huge amount of respect, it softened the lion and the mouse was let go. 

Indeed, the recipient of respect again had the opportunity to respect the lion by chewing through a net that had trapped the lion! 

Respect and gratitude are cornerstones to a happy life!

 

Does being humble mean thinking less of yourself?

Of course not, but sometimes that’s the way we look at humility. 

Does that mean we stop learning and growing? 

Of course not!

I want to share the recent mat chats we’ve been having with the kids at the karate school.

Last week’s mat chat:

We often say awareness is the first step to making any changes. Being more focused on others starts with being aware of others. What’s going on around us? Can we get any sense of how those around us are feeling? It just takes getting used to NOTICING! Notice your surroundings, notice the people around you, and notice how they are acting, and whether you can tell what they are feeling.

The best way to reach out to someone who is sad, for example, is to say something kind BEFORE they even tell you they are sad.(Most people WON’T tell you!)  If someone seems angry, is there anything you might do to help? It might be to just ask if they’re all right; asking if there’s anything you can do for them can make a difference in how they feel. How does it make you feel when someone asks if there is anything they can do for you? Does it make  you feel good to be noticed? You want to make OTHERS feel noticed and cared for.

That’s part of what it means to be humble – to notice others and to care about them.

This week: you are enough!

We’ve talked about a lot of ways to be humble.

Being a good listener, being curious about someone in order to get to know them better, noticing  and caring about those around us; these are all traits of a humble person.

We’ve found out that these same things apply to “how to love people”. Being humble and loving others is pretty much the same thing.

What we haven’t talked about yet is loving yourself. In order to be able to love others well, we have to love ourselves. That comes from knowing who we are. When we know who we are we don’t have to listen to the messages of the world.

The world says: never enough. Not thin enough, not smart enough, not good looking enough, you don’t have enough friends, you don’t have enough toys, you don’t have good enough grades…. It goes on and on.

But when you KNOW who you are, you can ignore all those messages and KNOW that you are ENOUGH. That doesn’t mean we don’t do our best to learn and grow, but it means we can have confidence that we’re on the right track and all the gifts we’ve been given are ENOUGH.

So please don’t mistake being humble for being LESS THAN. There is no benefit to thinking LESS of yourself, or by putting yourself down. You can always love others without putting them ABOVE you, or yourself LESS THAN them.

Where do you get your identity from?

How do you know who you are? The people closest to you can tell you that. They send you messages all the time. Who do your parents say you are? They probably tell you wonderful things about you, but you think they’re just saying that because they love you. If your mom tells you that you’re smart and capable, just because she loves you doesn’t negate what she’s told you!

We believe each and every one of you are a beloved child of God. You are special and created by God for a purpose. You can always claim your identity from God. You are wonderfully and fearfully made. And he is closer to you than anyone!

But even if you’re not ready to trust God, you can find out from the people who love you most, who you are. Just don’t let the lies of the world that say “you’re not enough” define you.

 

 

Can Humility Be Developed?

It might be helpful to look at some of the underlying habits that help to create a humble person. We CAN develop habits! We all know they can be good or bad, and it would be a whole other post to discuss how we can develop GOOD habits. (In fact, there WAS a whole other post – check out our May 2017 post!)

We’re going to be sharing with kids during mat chat what habits will help them to become humble. 

Is HUMILITY good?

First they have to WANT to become humble! We need to clear up some common misconceptions about humility. It’s NOT being weak or passive or allowing people to walk all over us. And it’s NOT being insecure, afraid to speak up when something needs to be said. 

Being humble is quite the opposite. When you know WHO you are, and you KNOW the power you have, you can stand strong no matter what others may think. Humble people choose to use their power for OTHERS instead of boosting themselves, or boasting of themselves.

Habits that develop humility

We encourage all of our students to be good listeners.  It’s a challenge for the 3-6 year old set to just stand still long enough to listen to instructions! But really, for all of us, it can be challenging to put our own thoughts and motives aside to really LISTEN when someone is talking. 

One way to foster good listening is to develop CURIOSITY! We can learn so much just from listening to other people. We are all a lot more alike than we are different; if we just listened to each other we would discover that!

Always learning, being curious, is another habit that leads to humility.  The more you learn, the more you realize you don’t have all the answers.

People who are AWARE of their surroundings, of the people around them, and especially of how those people are feeling, are often humble people. When we are aware of what everyone else is going through, we realize what we’re going through isn’t so bad. Being aware of others helps to grow our empathy, which also leads to humility.

Develop the habit of standing up and speaking truth. Sometimes it seems so much easier to just keep our mouth closed and try not to get involved. But when we see a train wreck about to happen, it’s important to speak up! Humble people are not afraid of what others may think. They are strong and confident so they can use their power wisely.

Sounds like a good thing to be, huh? So these habits of being a good listener,  always learning, being aware of what’s happening around you, and speaking truth, are great habits to start working on!

We’ll go over some other good habits next week!